Monday, May 2, 2011

Worship in Theological Training

Ministerial training is absolutely necessary. Formal training, on the other hand, is not. We are all aware that C.H. Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones had no formal theological training. But both men had rigorous intellectual training - Lloyd-Jones as a doctor, of course. Most of us, however, need formal theological training because we are not as able as Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones! Spurgeon trained himself, of course. He grew up in a house full of good theological books, and with a grandfather who was a faithful pastor.

At the same time, not all theological training is equal. When I was at Seminary there was talk of a young man who had been 'rescued' from a bogus college. He had come over from an African country expecting to be trained and found that in fact he was going to get a worthless piece of paper at the end of his time. Thankfully he had contacted a real seminary (which doesn't even give a piece of paper!).

Today I went to Didsbury, looking for the former Methodist College there. I found it. And I was glad to see the original chapel still standing just within the gates - as seen above. And that brings me to my point - that the first essential in theological training is that it must be grounded and rooted in worship and the local Church. The role of a theological seminary is not just to satisfy the craving of odd people for theological learning - it is not to have the mindset of the academy, in which subjects are studied for their own sake. No, a seminary exists for the Church, and the Church exists to worship. That means that even lectures must be given with the realisation that this is worship, we are considering the eternal God and his works, not just some dry subject.

And the same is true of the continuing training that we are involved in. The study must be the place of prayer as well as of study. And that was what the chapel at Didsbury reminded me of - because it was the largest building on the original campus. Either side of it are the old tutors' houses, but between the two is a chapel. Worship and learning must go together for the pastor, and for the Church.

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